Australia

The Wilder Australia

IMG_5078While my Australian adventure included stays in Sydney and Brisbane; my focus was mainly the Queensland peninsula with the Daintree Rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef (Mackay), and the Blue Mountain national park, near Sydney in New South Wales.

Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation, Queensland

Cape Tribulation was aptly named by James Cook after his difficulties navigating the reefs (that we now call Great Barrier Reef — GBR) in 1770. This area is also where Daintree rainforest meets the ocean — with the GBR just outside. A large tract of tropical rainforest — supposedly one of the three oldest in the world — it has a unique plant, and animal life found nowhere else. The national park has a strong pull on nature enthusiasts, but as luck would have it, I was there during the off-season (the wet one), enjoying the relative calm.

IMG_5097Daintree; tropical rainforest meets the ocean and the Great Barrier Reef.

DSC01899I Stayed in Diwan, not even big enough to be a village, at a motel doubling as a rehab center for wayward Wallabies and other critters. Their habitat backed up to my room, so I had non-stop Wallaby-TV. The rehab center also had a few Pythons slither around the grounds and countless gaudy looking parrots. Adding to that, the aging croc, constantly squeaking birds and the surreally-sized flying foxes at night, all made for a bizarre ecosystem.

Fellow residents at my motel. Left, an Agile Wallaby. Right (top and bottom), Swamp Wallabies.

Australia in general, and this part, in particular, is home to a vast amount of things that can make your life miserable. As anywhere, you’ll quickly learn how to adapt, but it is frustrating to walk on a tropical beach unable to go in because of “salties” — crocs inhabiting the creeks and beaches, and the box jellies; small jellyfish with potentially fatal stings.

Left photo; an eery feeling when huge flying foxes fly overhead. I don’t know what size the Aussie version is, but these fruit bats can have a wingspan of up to 1.5 meters (4-5 feet!). Right, resident epiphyte.

The Mount Sorrow Ridge Trail, Cape Tribulation

One of the highlights of the area was the Mount Sorrow Ridge Trail. To say this is a demanding trek is an understatement. The extreme humidity, perpetual rain, steep traverses/climbs, leeches, 12,000 species of insects, constantly running into spider webs and thorny palms, Wait-A-While vines (vines with hooked spines), made the hike bordering on unpleasant. But, I was the only one in the forest, save for the thousands of parrots, lorikeets, cockatoos, etc., and beer on the motel terrace later made me grow fonder of the experience.

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Unfortunately, there are fewer fruits and flowers during the wet season, but I spotted a few unusual growths.

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Where the rainforest meets the ocean; Mangroves.

IMG_5173Ending up in the beach area after a long trek is rewarding, but don’t expect to jump in the water!

Great Barrier Reef

My birthday gift; splashing about on the Great Barrier Reef. I spent a morning on Mackay Reef, about 45 minutes by boat out from Cape Tribulation. With the only operator on this reef, at least for that day, we swam around ray’s, enormous green sea turtles and giant clams (they can reach over 400 lbs, 45+ inches across). Wearing stinger suits, there were no signs of the feared box jelly or venomous blue-ringed octopus. Unfortunately, I had no underwater camera, so all the surreal images exist in memory only. But no worries.

IMG_5159Unfortunately, the only photo from GBR.

Blue Mountain National Park, New South Wales

The national park is best reached via train from Sydney, a 2-hour trip that for the latter half goes through some nice scenery. The name supposedly derives from the mist the Eucalyptus forest emits, creating a bluish haze over the area. While the mammalian wildlife seems limited, the birdlife is spectacular, with huge flocks of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, King Parrots, and Rosellas. But the flora is also fascinating. And the insects. My quest for the day was the Sydney Funnel-web spider, widely regarded as one of the world’s most venomous spider. At just 1.5-3.5 cm (0.5 to 1 inch), its fangs are larger than those of some snakes and powerful enough to pierce toenails.

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Sydney Funnel-web spider, one of the most venomous spiders in the world. At just 1.5-3.5 cm (0.5 to 1 inch), its fangs can pierce through toenails. Right, it’s home.

Right photo, these white specks are Sulphur Crested Cockatoo’s, huge and noisy, they let you and others know where you are.

I left Australia feeling I had barely scratched the surface. There’s so much to see and easy to forget the vastness of the continent. But, that gives me the incentive to go back.

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Categories: Australia, Oceania

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